When I am in Italy in the Summer, I love to eat Panzanella Salad. You might be surprised how it looks in Italy. There are no croutons! Unfortunately, many restaurants and food show chefs in the U.S. have interpreted Panzannella with crunchy croutons. It may taste fine, but it is not the traditional, simple, refreshing bread salad that I miss when I am back in San Francisco. True, it is not easy to get the bread texture just right if you don’t have that salt-free Tuscan bread, but I have come up with a recipe that comes close to the Italian version. Hope you like it!
P.S. If you are in Florence, go to Osteria del Porcellino or Cantinetta Antinori to taste the real thing!
Panzanella – Tradional Tuscan Summer Salad – Serves 4
1 loaf of day-old artisan bread (unsalted Tuscan is most authentic, but stale hard bread will do)
¼+ cup white wine
¼+ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar 2 cucumbers, peeled & diced 4 large tomatoes, or 10 Roma, cut in chunks ½ small red onion, finely chopped (I soak in vinegar for 10 minutes & drain, to get a milder taste – up to you.)
20+ basil leaves, chiffonade Extra virgin olive oil, to taste salt & pepper
In Italy this salad is traditionally made with stale bread (it only takes a day for that unsalted Tuscan bread to reach this stage). When I make it in the U.S., I use left-over stale bread or take a fresh loaf of artisan bread, like Pugliese, cut it up in 2” cubes, removing the crust, and leave the cubes on cookie sheet to air-dry overnight or until hard. (It is easier to cut the bread up when it is fresh than when it is as hard as a rock.)
I place the bread in a large serving bowl, add ¼ cup white wine and ¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar and toss to coat. In the traditional Italian recipe they would use red wine vinegar, but I prefer the milder rice wine. Please use the one you like best.
While the bread is soaking, I cut up the other ingredients. Then, tear the bread until you get the consistency you like (somewhat crumbly or like cous-cous). Add the vegetables you cut up and toss well. Drizzle on a good amount of evoo. Taste and add salt & pepper accordingly. Add more wine if it is dry.
The salad can be served immediately or chilled for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.